On Being Happy

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished — but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life.

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”

Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior — being, as mentioned, a “taker” rather than a “giver.” The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this: happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire — like hunger — you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. Humans, then, are not the only ones who can feel happy. Animals have needs and drives, too, and when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy, the researchers point out.

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study and author, with John Tierney, of the recent book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister, a social psychologists at Florida State University, was named an ISI highly cited scientific researcher in 2003.

The Alantic | There’s More to Life than Being Happy

I often feel happiness is over-rated. That happiness that we yearned and pursued as the ultimate life goal often does not give us the satisfaction that we have envisioned when we finally achieved it. That picture of fulfillment is just a fantasy we had dreamt up in our mind. And that dream of happiness is what made us so unhappy; we tried to run towards that future happiness that blinded us to what is happening in the present and make us failed to appreciate and recognise what we have now.

And this is what Frankl wrote in his book:

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

Viktor Frankl | Man’s Search for Meaning

And this reminded me of a passage from Banksy’s 2005 Compilation Wall and Piece. The text is credited as the diary entry of an Ailled Lieutenant Colonel. It described how a shipment of lipstick gave the concentration camp internees their humanity back.

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen. It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and childen collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference. Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand proping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentary which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated. It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Camp | Archived from the original on 19 January 2005.

Linchpin

Linchpin

Are You Indispensable?
Seth Godin

Linchpin

These days, I’m reading this book like it’s the holy scripture. I’m taking down notes at every turn, nodding as I go along, reciting it word-for-word for anyone who cares or not cares to listen. I’m the manic street preacher. It first goes to why we are unhappy at work and why it’s all our fault that we are not doing anything about it.

I only I could highlight the hell out of this book like a secondary student cramming for exam. But I’m 32 now and social decorum dictates that I do no such thing to a library book.

“The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labour, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about”

In Bestsellers such as Purple Cow and Tribes, Seth Godin taught readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. But this book is different. It’s about you—your choices, your future, and your potential to make a huge difference in whatever field you choose.

There used to be two teams in every workplace; management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order our of chaos. The figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.

Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organisations. Like the small piece of hardware that keeps a wheel from falling off its axle, they may not be famous but they’re indispensable. And today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.

Continue reading

The Commandant

The Commandant

A Monologue
Rudolf Höss

The Commandant

This guy is an efficient worker, would be good if he worked for the postal service. Unfortunately, he’s a German and he’s the first commandant of Auschwitz concentrate camp. That kind of efficiency is very bad for humanity when he’s in charge of the largest Nazi German extermination camp.

From this shortened version of his autobiography, edited by Jürg Amann, one can’t be sure if he’s pure evil or that he hated the Jews. But you can be sure that he thrive in efficiency the way he goes on about the technicality of mass extermination.

The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time.

Höss explained how 10,000 people were exterminated in one 24-hour period:
Technically [it] wasn’t so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers…. The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time. The killing was easy; you didn’t even need guards to drive them into the chambers; they just went in expecting to take showers and, instead of water, we turned on poison gas. The whole thing went very quickly.
wikipedia

It was not until serveral hours later that the doors were opened and the room aired out. THere for the first time I saw the gassed bodies in mass. But I must admit openly that the gassing had a calming effect on me, since in the near future the mass annihilation of the Jews was to begin. Up to this point it was not clear to me, nor to Eichmann, how the killing of the expected masses was to be done. Pershap by gas? But how, and what kind of gas? Now we had discovered the gas and the procedure.

He spoke of the mass killing in such a cold matter-of-fact way that makes Hannibal Lector seems like a lovable manic street preacher. And it’s funny how he cares more about the soldiers doing the killing than the million he killed.

I was always horrified by the death by firing squads, especially when I thought of the huge numbers of women and children who would have to be killed. I had had enough of hostage executions, and the mass killings by firing squad ordered by Himmler and Heydrich. Now I was at east. We were all saved from these bloodbaths, and the victims woould be spared until the last moment. That is what I worried about the most when I thought of Eichmann’s accounts of the mowing down of the Jews with machine guns and pistols by the Einsatzgruppe. Horrible scenes were supposed to have occured: people running away even after being shot, the killing of those who were wounded, especially the women and children. Another thing on my mind was the many suicides among the ranks of the SS Special Action Squads who could no longer mentally endure wading in the bloodbath. Some of them went mad.

He also talked about how different people deals with immiment death and the behaviour of the Sonderkommandos.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sachsenhausen. A larger number of them refused to sever in the military and were, therefore, sentenced to death by Himmler as draft dodgers. They were shot to death in the camp in front of the entire assembly of prisoners.

How different each person’s approach to death was. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were in a way strangely satisfied. Once could say they had almost transfigured mood and had a rock-hard awareness that they were to be allowed to go into Jehovah’s kingdom. The draft dodgers and the saboteurs calmly composed and reconciled themselves to the inevitability and the truly asocial appeared to be quite different, either cynical, insolent, or apparently vigorous. Trembling inside with the fear of the great unknown, they raged and fought all the way or whined for a priest to help them.

As strange as that was, so was the general behaviour of the Sonderkommando. All of them knew with certainty that when it was over, they themselves would suffer the same fate as thousands of their race had before them, in whose destruction they were very helpful. In spite of this they still did their job with an eagerness and in a caring, helpful way during the undressing, yet they would also use force with those who resisted undressing. This always amazed me. They never spoke to the victims about what was ahead of them. They also led away the troublemakers and then held on to them firmly while they were being shot. They led these victims in such a way that they they could not see the NCO who stood ready with his gun. This enabled him to aim at the back of their necks without being noticed. It was the same when they dealt with the sickly and feeble who could not be brought into the gas chamber. All this was done in a matter-of-fact manner, as if they themselves were the exterminators. They dragged the bodies from the gas chambers, removed the gold teeth, cut off the hait, then dragged the bodies to the pits or to the ovens. On top of that, they had to maintain the fires in the pits, pour off the accumulated fat, and poke holes into the burning mountains of bodies, so that more oxygen could enter. All these jobs they performance with an indifferent coolness, just as if this was an everyday affair. Where did the Jews of the Sonderkommando get the strength to perform this horrible job day and night?

Reading this and having been to Auschwitz, and still seeing atrocities being act out everyday, it’s a strange feeling. If the efficient Germans and Japanese had tried this extermination thing and failed, it’s quite obvious genocide is pointless because life will always find a way to hold on. Yet until now, dictators and rouge nations are still trying to make this mass extermination works. Can’t we just end this nonsense and use our money and energy to build a better world, maybe in our joint effort, we could really explore space. But no, that will never happen, because it’s human nature to stir trouble. Peace makes people restless. Like some retired elderly who decide to run marathon because they are bored and has too much time at hand.

Meanwhile I am just happy that I can live everyday, safe in the knowledge that no one is targeting me out because of my race, gender. Or height.

Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

Sandra Beasley

‘Tho not as serious as Beasley’s, I too have allergies. They are not life-threatening but a nuisance to live with. I can’t handle perspiration and I live in a humid and hot country. I was exempted from Physical Education classes during the last two years in Secondary School. The enraging hormones, that has already wreak havoc on my face, together with the heat, gives me serious eczema. They itched so bad that I often turned up in school with bandages around my knees,elbow and armpit as I have scratched the skin off the flexor surfaces during sleep. And the genital area was not spared too.

Thing are not so bad now. the ezcema only appears during the hot season, which is now. They alternate between the back of my right knee (Popliteal fossa) and inner side of my right elbow (Cubital fossa).

Right now, it’s the knee. It takes a long time to heal because I can’t refrain myself from scratching them at night. In the day, I will try not to think about it. But thing will all go downhill when im in the toilet, pants down, idle hands, and thinking ‘just one, c’mon, just one tiny scratch.